SEATTLE, WA – James G. "Jimi" Lott, 52, a well-known award-winning photojournalist and former staff photographer for The Seattle Times from 1984 through 2004, has been found dead at a motel in Wenatchee, WA. Seattle Times managing editor David Boardman informed the staff Wednesday of Lott's death, and the Chelan County coroner told the Times that Lott's death has been ruled a suicide.
"Jimi was a marvelously creative photojournalist who saw the world with childlike curiosity. For two decades, our newspaper, and our readers, were the beneficiaries," Boardman wrote in an announcement to Lott's former coworkers. "Jimi was one of the first photographers I worked with, when we were both pups at the Skagit Valley Herald in Mount Vernon. From the start, I was taken most with his ability to put the subjects of our stories at ease."
Lott is survived by his former wife, Kathleen Lott, and a son, Joshua Lott, as well as his stepfather, WalterHoskinson. No public services are planned at this time.
Lott was known for his compassionate picture stories of those in trouble - the down-and-out, the mentally ill, poor and homeless people - and staff members remember him for his compassion and empathy. In the 1980s a series of stories about problems with the state's mental health system, illustrated with Lott's photographs, won the 1989 Cowles Cup honor.
“Jimi was energized by photography. He loved his work and had deep compassion for his subjects,” Cole Porter told News Photographermagazine. Porter, now with Getty Images, was the director of photography at The Seattle Times for many of the years Lott was a staff photojournalist. “Although he had unique empathy for the less fortunate he had the ability to make readers laugh with his visual humor. Jimi never embraced things in moderation; he went full speed. He always worried about others first, even when he had little to share." Porter also remembers that Lott sometimes gave money or toys to needy people he encountered, and that he also rebuilt computers to give to those in need. "If more people had Jimi's compassion for their neighbor this would be a different world.”
Lott was also one of the photographers on the investigative team coverage of safety problems with Boeing 737 airliner rudders that won the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize in 1997. He won multiple awards in the 45th annual Pictures of the Year competition in 1988 at the University of Missouri, including top honors in news picture stories for a special section on the homeless.
In 1984, Lott was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in spot news photography when he was a staff photographer at The Spokesman-Review for a picture that showed a young boy being comforted by a firefighter.
Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Jerry Gay had already left his staff position at The Seattle Times when he met Lott. “Jimi was a friend, and a fellow journalist on the road. I was continually impressed with Jimi’s outgoing friendliness and his fresh approach to his subjects. You could see pure vitality in his everyday news photographs.”
“Sometimes in the life of genius there is a troublesome inner struggle that’s trying to determine the soul’s real identity and true self worth,” Gay said. “God bless you, Jimi, on your journey, and continue making unprecedented pictures revealing your deepest essence for all to see.”
Lott attended San Diego City College and Southwest Oregon Community College, the Times reports, and started his photography career in 1972 at The World in Coos Bay, OR, and then at the Bay Reporter. His career included being director of photography at the Skagit ValleyHerald and the Yakima Herald-Republic before joining The Spokesman-Review in 1982. In 1984 he moved to The Seattle Times.